Three weeks into the registration period and with just a week left before closing, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has registered only 293,101, a paltry 20 percent of their 1, 4 million target. “The numbers are far below our target for the general elections but with the registration process coming to a close we hope Batswana will be encouraged to register in big numbers,” says IEC’s Principal Public Relations Officer, Osupile Maroba. He says people should not wait for supplementary registration because it may not happen. “Supplementary registration is subject to many factors which may not allow for it to take place.” Maroba says there are various reasons why some people refuse to participate in elections some of which he blames on the local political climate.
A mini survey carried out by the Sunday Standard in Gaborone and surrounding areas has revealed the most people who do not vote were either frustrated by the lack of service delivery, unstable political climate or did not understand the importance of the electoral process. “Politicians are just out to enrich themselves,” says one. “The moment they are elected into office they forget all about the electorate only to resurface again prior to the next elections.” Some do not vote because “what is the point … The BDP will win again.”Although they sympathise with the opposition some are frustrated by the constant defections by opposition members.
IEC’s Maroba says happy or not, people who do not vote effectively relinquish their power to those who do. “If you are happy with the status quo you have to vote to maintain it and if you are not, it is also through voting that you can change the situation,” he advises. According to the 2002 IEC and University of Botswana Democracy Research Project (DRP) report on voter apathy there has been a steady decline in voting trends with the highest participation of 58% in 1965 and lowest of 30.9% in 1974. In the last general elections (2009), the percentage of registered voters who cast their ballots during the elections was 80 percent or 555 308 of the 725 817 people who had registered. There were at least 1, 1 million eligible voters. This means that as much as 50% of illegible Batswana voters did not care enough to decide which party would best serve their interests. The registration process closes today, October 27th, and unless there is a dramatic last minute turn-out the figures will remain below half of IEC’s target of 1,4 million registrations.